Cycling

That time of year again

It appears that this tradition (if three posts can be considered a tradition) is destined to be a biennial one; two years in a row is apparently too much for me. I do seem to remember writing one last year but it appears to be lost in the backlog of drafts I’m getting so good at ignoring.

Bundling these the two years together will be interesting; I’m not sure any two consecutive years of my life have been so different. Continue reading

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Categories: Cycling, Everyday Happenings, Rowing, Work | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Rising to Another Challenge (or hill reps until you’re ill)

Having only managed to complete 500 miles in a month once, what I obviously needed was another challenge to add to it. This one came ready made from the lovely people at Strava. I have been carefully giving them all my personal information since the beginning of the year and in return they give me graphs and numbers. Every month they also give challenges which you can join, and then watch as your achievements are made to look insignificant by one of the nutters who ride 5,000 km a month.

As part of the 100th tour celebrations, they made two challenges. The first was to cover half the distance of the (1680km) during the month, the second was to climb the combined height of four of the major climbs (Peyresourde, Ventoux, Sarenne and Alpe d’Huez – 7235m) during the final week of the tour (to coincide with the week they’re in the Alps). Continue reading

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Snatching Defeat from the Jaws of Victory

Or “I am not 500 miles”.

Last month I got off to a slowish start the 500 miles and stayed roughly constant until the end at which point I rode further than usual for a few days and finished on 501 miles. I made it but not by much.

Continue reading

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I am (500 miles)

I made it. Not by much but still, 30 days, 501 miles.

I have (of course) kept meticulous records during the month which now allows me to divulge all sorts of ‘intriguing’ statistics that I’m sure one of us will be interested in [Graph Warning].

Continue reading

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And bringing me back down to Earth

Since being so jubilant at my recent successes, I checked what sort of times professional riders are taking for similar distances.

For the Olympic Time Trial last year, Wiggins averaged ~32mph over a slightly shorter, but I imagine much tougher, course. For the final TT in the TdF, he held ~31mph over a slightly longer, presumably also harder, course. The slowest tour rider (153rd) finished with a respectable ~26mph average.

Consider my feet well and truly planted on the ground again.

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Are you getting better?

I was asked recently by someone who knew I was trying to train more and ride 500miles/month, whether I was getting better. At the time I thought I must have been but in no way that I could measure. My response was along the lines of “possibly, the times aren’t changing but the wind does”. Coming from rowing with its ergs and constant quantitative measuring of fitness, moving to cycling where gains are much harder to measure it was more than a little disconcerting to realise that, while you felt and thought you were fitter than before, you still hadn’t equalled a record set nearly two years ago.

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I’m Gonna Be (500 miles)

I’ve been reading Murakami’s “What I talk about when I talk about running” (as shown by my last post) and the guy is crazy. He runs for the enjoyment of running for starters, but even when you get over that minor peculiarity, he runs a lot. I used to think I rode a lot. Before uni I used to ride five or six times a week. During uni I rowed about as often. This guy runs, almost without fail, six days a week, sometimes covering in excess of 200 miles each month. I don’t think I’ve often bettered that counting both cycling and rowing. I’ve run further this month than in any other month of my life (a fact my legs seem keen to remind me of each time I stand up) and have barely covered a tenth of that amount.

At this point I have to remind myself that my sporting aspirations are somewhat higher than his (in no way implying that my achievements to date are anything close) and that just sitting in awe of the distance he runs isn’t going to get me anywhere. As well as the often quoted 10,000 hours level, I remember reading that tour riders often ride tens of thousands of miles a year and rowers often cover 100+ miles a week to get to any appreciable level. I am in no place to row any distance at all at the minute but what I do have is time and a bike.

As such I am instigating a new training plan for myself. I am no longer going to focus on anything other than actually doing training. Of any sort and at any level of effort. It doesn’t matter. What does matter is the distance.

I originally planned to try and mimic Murikami’s 200 miles a months but considering I don’t plan on running any more often than possible and cycling is a fair bit faster, I am going to change the (non-existant) rules a bit.

I will now endeavour to cover a minimum of 500 miles per month. This can be run or cycled (or rowed if I ever find myself in reach of a river). Time spent on the turbo will count and will be measured as if it had been at 15mph for UT2 and 18mph for UT1. These seem to equate to speeds on the road for such efforts while also working out nicely considering most of my turbo sessions are 40 minutes.

This works out at just under 17 miles a day. My usual training routes range from ~14-21. Turbo sessions would most likely be 10 or 12. On paper, this challenge seems doable. The most important aspect, and the one I would most like to take away from this, is the routine of riding every day. Murakami has a rule that he never has two days off in a row. If I can replicate this I will be more than happy.

In practice I imagine I will struggle to achieve the 500 mile target, at least for the first couple of months. So far this month I have only covered 31 miles. This isn’t looking good already.

Categories: Cycling, Training | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments

Today I don’t feel like doing anything

Or I didn’t anyway.

This was a surprise to me given that I had various things that I thought I wanted to do. Turns out I was wrong. What I wanted to do was sit and vegetate in front of the computer.

I didn’t cycle (in the shed or out of it), I didn’t achieve anything of note and didn’t even read anything inspirational. The only thing I’ll remember of my day’s stupor is the discovery of how chicken wire is made. I watched it for hours.

One event though did interrupt my mind destroying day of inactivity, the arrival of the orders I had placed three days ago in my moment of “let’s do cycling”. I bought a new helmet to replace the one I had carried around uni for three years and dropped repeatedly. This was a success. It fits. It is comfy. I might write a slightly more detailed review at some point. I’m looking forward to that as much as you are to reading it.

The next items were a pair of water bottles. Pure extravagance. I thought I ought to having lost the previous two I had to Dorney Lake and to somewhere at the boathouse. SiS have changed their design. There is nothing more to say.

The third item (don’t worry, there are only four (five if you’re picky (which would make this the fourth (see where pedantry gets you (to a fifth set of embedded parenthesis))))) was a waterproof jacket. I felt that if I was going to go around in the world wearing too much lycra and wrapping my feet in cling film to let me ride in unpleasant weather, I may as well go all the way and be fluorescent at the same time. All well and good until the jacket turned out to fit only when standing straight with my arms by my sides.

“it looks like you’re trying to move your arms. Would you like me to make your sleeves ride up to near your elbows? No? How about stretch the back so tight you can’t even think about using aero-bars?”

I accepted my fate of having to send it back and moved on to the next item. A long sleeved, thermal cycling jersey (this is the fourth/fifth item (don’t start)). Having tried it on and discovered that the full length zip unfortunately preferred forming ridges up my front rather than lying flat, I did what any self-respecting/narcissistic individual would do and went to find a mirror. Imagine my shock when this gentleman looked back at me.

The one from Star Trek that isn't Captain Picard

Only not him – the one whose name I don’t know that has hair.

I don’t know how I had failed to see it when I ordered it. What had happened I think was that I narrowed it down to one of two versions, then found a third one (this one) by the same company and that was apparently warmer/cheaper/something-that-changed-my-mind-ier so I bought it. I didn’t notice that the pattern was somewhat familiar.

The problem is also that, having never seen Star Trek, I only know the costume from the mickey takes. From the ‘Two Ronnies’ version and from Galaxy Quest. I don’t have a very high opinion of it.

It looks like I may be beaming sending another item back. Who knows what I’ll be next time?

The hairy one from Star Wars

Nope. I’ve never seen Star Wars either

Categories: Cycling, Everyday Happenings | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

What’s one size down from taking baby steps?

I did the same ride again yesterday and it turns out there is something more uncomfortable than 20 miles on a bike for the first time in months. It’s getting back on and doing it again the day after.

This time it was even windier but a different direction of windiness. The last three miles were some of the least pleasant that I’ve ridden. That effort was far too great for the speed achieved. Until that final turn onto the climb to home I was quite comfortably up on the previous attempt. The tail wind on the ‘back-straight’ section was more so and the main climb was as sheltered. When I did finally cross the line I was still up.

By six seconds.

That still counts, right? That’s an improvement. Just think, in 130 rides time I’ll be on for a record. If I wanted to make it any time soon I’ll be dizzy.

Today I decided against fighting the elements and chose instead to sit on the turbo for a while. In the end I watch two episodes of 24. That’s 90 minutes after warming up/stretching etc. I feel that’s more than equivalent though I’m not sure it justified the amount I’ve just eaten. I’m now going to lie in a darkened room for a while and be a snake.

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Climbing back on the bike

Having spent yesterday getting the bike back on the road it was only fitting that today I should actually ride it. An unusual thing to do these days given that I’ve not ridden more than three miles since July. I’ve not rowed since the end of November and only been on the turbo once since then. I think this is called letting oneself go.

Over the last three years of rowing I have come to the conclusion that rowing is a sport that involves an inordinate amount of faffing around time. We would regularly have sessions of maybe 90 minutes of time spent on the water that would take five hours door to door. The 15 minute commute to the boathouse didn’t do much to justify it either. I think the problem is centred around the ‘trying to get many people to be in the same place at the same time’ issue that coincides nicely with the ‘hoping they’re ready when they get there’ one. Over time this was taken as normal and the time was planned for. You knew for a 7am pick-up that you would be lucky to be home before midday.

Given the causes of this time wasting, you’d have thought a sport one did alone, from their own house would be free from such constraints. Alas no. I woke up with the single aim for the day of going for a ride. This is a ride that takes, fitness and weather depending, somewhere just the other side of an hour to complete. So what time did I get back from said ride? 10 am? Midday? No. 4pm. I woke up at just before nine. That means there were approximately six hours of me being awake and preparing to cycle. It wasn’t even a long ride that I needed to prepare for. It was the standard training ride I must have done countless times.

Granted I had to refit the chain and dry the helmet from its bleachy swim, but neither of these should take more than half an hour and the drying could be happening while I was chain-fitting.

So what was I doing? I honestly have no idea. I didn’t even turn the computer on.

But anyway, after the minimal amount of fighting stubborn powerlinks, I was ready. Having been on the cold side of comfortable all morning I proceeded to climb into more layers of lycra than any one man should own never mind wear at once. I re-accustomed myself to the heel down hobble that road shoes ask of you and sauntered to the bike to actually get under way.

Within two minutes I started regretting how much I was wearing. Within three minutes I could feel the lack of anything I’d done in the last two months. The wind didn’t help much either. Stretches that are level and straight, felt instead like the brakes were on constantly. The upside of this though was that on the other side of the circuit, with the wind on my side, I could pretend I wasn’t actually unfit. The fact I was still only doing to speed I’d normally be doing on a still day doesn’t need to be mentioned. The biggest hill of the route (half a mile at ~1:6) almost killed me. Where I’m usually spinning in fourth or fifth at ~8-9mph I was grinding away in first trying to keep on the better side of 4mph.

The final climb to home is usually one where I am racing against the clock sitting at ~15mph pushing towards 16. Today I didn’t even bother checking the time. With the lack of anything to power me and the headwind, I was pushing hard to stay in double figures.

The final time when I’d stopped was abysmal. A jaunty 13:35 behind my PB. Even accounting for the wind that’s a poor time.

A better turnout for the day is the discovery through a friend of the MapMyRide/Run website and associated app. Now not only do I get an overall time and speed from the bike computer, a time for each of the five splits I record on my watch and HR for each, I now get splits for each km and a graph of speed vs elevation and a little map that shows me how fast each section was. It even times the hill climb separately. I think I could become obsessed without too much effort. Think of the stats I can collect and compare.

Still I made it. Since I’m no closer to finding a new rowing club, this is likely to return to being my main training, so it looks like grinning and bearing may be in order. After hopefully not too many more attempts I should be back to a level where I once was. The idea of racing in a fortnight is looking more and more to be on the crazier side of sensible.

Categories: Cycling | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments

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